A soup needs layers of savory flavors. This one is balanced with a barely-sweet note and subtle spices that let the flavor of the squash stand out. It stands alone but can be topped with your choice of garnishes. Grated Parmesan cheese and lemon zest would be ideal. —TRISH MURPHY
Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and allow to cook as you chop and add the celery, carrot, apple and butternut squash (peel it first). When all the vegetables have been added to the pot, stir in the stock or water, spices, and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
Remove the soup from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the solids into a blender or food processor and puree them. (You can remove the cloves if you prefer). Add them back to the remaining liquid in the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and a pinch of lemon zest.